Karl off the leash
On the eve of his ultimate test, the morning anchor is unrepentant, writes Holly Byrnes
KARL Stefanovic’s fitness for the job of TV anchor is one of those water cooler conversations that never seems to quit.
But in this case, it’s his actual physical stamina that inspires the first belly laugh from the busy Today show host as he runs between the studio and his car, audibly puffing.
‘‘ How am I going?’’ he says, between deep breaths. ‘‘ Am I ready for the Olympics or what?’’
Whether he’s up to the task is a question even Stefanovic asks himself with only days until he flies out to help anchor Nine’s coverage of the London Games.
‘‘ I am across sport, but I don’t think anyone at Nine would think they’re across the Olympics because we haven’t had the rights for years. ‘‘ There’s an element of this being a very big job and I have to get across it or people find you out.’’
Six months of preparation, boning up on Australia’s major medal hopes, as well as a broader brief about the host city and its staging of the Games, illustrates how determined Stefanovic is to get this gig right.
He will front coverage each night from 6.30pm, playing ‘‘ traffic cop’’ — a combination of introducing events and interviewing star athletes.
Taking on the challenge, on top of his Today show duties and a roving role on 60 Minutes, is as much about keeping himself stimulated before making a decision about what he does next.
With his Channel 9 deal expiring at the end of this year, there has been constant chatter Stefanovic may be up for a channel change.
And if you believe the rumour mill, Stefanovic’s mates in high places — including Nine boss David Gyngell and Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch — are arm-wrestling to keep or snare the Gold Logie winner for their networks.
His sneering critics would suggest the 37-year-old’s re- cent career successes reflect his powerful buddies rather than his 20 years of experience and calm handling of natural disasters such as the Queensland floods or Christchurch earthquake.
It’s an assumption Stefanovic admits annoys him but is out of his hands.
‘‘ I can’t control what people say about my relationships with people, I just have to work on what I do. If someone wants to employ me, it’s going to be less about my ability to get on with the boss and more to do with my ability to get on with the audience,’’ he says.
Stefanovic denies any job offer from Murdoch has been made, saying, ‘‘ It’s just something that people assume because he works at Channel 10 that there would be something happening there for me’’.
Besides, he says, he has an Olympics gig to get through unscathed before sitting down with wife Cassie and decid
ing on his future.
Avoiding trouble is easier said than done for the selfstyled joker.
His last overseas jaunt to Britain for the Royal wedding landed him in the headlines for some high-jinks, specifically a toe-sucking incident with Today cohort Ben Fordham.
Reminded of the headlines, Stefanovic emits a Mutley-like chuckle.
‘‘ What about that? Look I was very tired that day and I was just demonstrating the Sarah Ferguson technique, in light of the royal family having a wedding.’’
As repentant as he gets, he says, ‘‘ Look I do have a good time and I will. But sometimes I go too far and clearly that time I lost sense of my responsibilities.’’
Just don’t expect the halo to always fit, Stefanovic adds.
Even after being publicly rebuked for his infamous postLogies performance when he appeared intoxicated on air, Stefanovic says he won’t curb his enthusiasm.
‘‘ It’s getting harder and harder for people to be different and to be normal and enjoy things in life. Wherever you go there are fun police and people watching. That’s not to say this job doesn’t come with
Liz Cambage, Shane Perkins and Craig Mottram (top right) are set to compete
at the Games.